Photos by Randall Vasquez
Having not played in Toronto since 2015 when the Foo Fighters played a two night stand at the then called Molson Amphitheatre, the band returned after a three year absence to the much larger Rogers Centre upgraded to the cities largest indoor venue in their 20+ year history. The group decided to add local band The Beaches to be their first opener giving the Toronto rockers a chance to play the biggest show of their career yet. They actually did the impossible in making the very large venue sound full and they put on a hell of a show for the slowly growing crowd. Dancing around and swinging their guitars around you can tell the foursome was having a blast. They had a short set consisting of only eight songs, but they made it count with a highlight being their biggest single so far in their brief career Money.
After putting out their debut album Everyone Wants back in 2014 and touring relentlessly behind it, there hasn’t a ton of news from The Struts who are the support act on the Concrete and Gold tour. The band started their set out with a new song and the aptly named Put Your Hands Up to get the crowd amped for the evening. Lead singer Luke Spiller talked about how their second album was done and they were excited to play new songs, along with the opener the crowd got glimpse of Primadonna Like Me and Body Talks. They also played their popular songs like Kiss This, which showed off Spiller’s incredible vocal range and Could Have Been Me. Spiller made sure to be the hype man his band was hired to be by shouting out “It’s our job to make sure you are prepared for one of the best fucking shows of your life” and he couldn’t have been more right.
In the year following Kurt Cobain’s untimely death, Nirvana’s drummer Dave Grohl was devastated at losing his close friend and unsure how to continue. He eventually returned to music forming his own project called Foo Fighters, where on the debut album Grohl played every instrument and sung every song. Following that debut self-titled album he put together a band and has since had several iterations of it with the only constant member was himself. The lineup has since stabilized since 2010 no one has left and a core of Taylor Hawkins on drums, Pat Smear and Chris Shiflett on guitars and Nate Mendel on bass. Coming out on stage to thunderous applause, Grohl shouted at everyone “Are you fucking ready?” before proceeding into All My Life, a track that was the bands attempt to show the world they weren’t just a “joke” rock band but the real deal back in 2002 off of One by One. Grohl screamed at the crowd “I want to see you motherfuckers dance” in between his guttural growls.
After the rocking intro the band followed it up with perhaps their least serious song (at least in terms of their famous music videos) with Learn to Fly from 1999’s There is Nothing Left to Lose. Grohl is well known for being one of the most passionate frontmen in music, always giving it his all on stage and being available for fans whenever they run into him. Throughout the evening he would often ensure those in attendance knew they were being appreciated saying “I’d like to personally thank you for coming to the biggest fucking Foo Fighter show in Toronto ever” and referring to the audience nonstop as “Big Ass Stadium” as they filled the large baseball stadium to the brim.
As Grohl stared at the crowd and admired the screaming fans way up in the 500 level he pointed at them all and launched into the fitting The Sky is a Neighborhood from last year’s Concrete and Gold. Along with the six piece band playing, four back up vocalists came out to perform backing vocals. Playing Rope from 2011’s Wasting Light turned into a groove session that seemed influenced by Santana making it very easy to dance to while still hearing blistering guitar solos. A large cat walk extended into the crowd and Grohl ran up and down it playing guitar before returning to face off against Taylor Hawkins trading solos with his drummer, egging him on to keep up with his increasingly faster guitar riffs. Afterwards the band all left the stage and the riser Hawkins was playing on ascended upwards allowing him to play an extended drum solo high above the stage. While wearing a Rush shirt, the crowd was able to see his Neil Peart like setup with around twenty pieces adorning his kit.
When the band came back out they played Sunday Rain, giving Hawkins more time in the spotlight as he took over singing duties performing the only Foo Fighters song he has recorded lead vocals for. Showing their history with the city Grohl remarked how they had been playing in Toronto for twenty-three years most notably at the Air Canada Centre, but early on it included stops at Lee’s Palace, The Opera House, The Phoenix and a very early gig at the Horseshoe Tavern. Grohl walked down to the edge of the catwalk and asked the crowd to sing along with him as he played My Hero alone on guitar, one of the bands biggest hits from 1997’s The Color and the Shape. The audience filled the stadium with so much noise gleefully singing along the song before the band eventually kicked in to back everyone up.
Covers have always been a staple of Foo Fighter shows and this tour is no different. After giving several band members their turn in the spotlight playing or singing lead on these covers keyboardist Rami Jaffee started playing the familiar piano notes of John Lennon’s Imagine and matching the slow speed of the song Grohl joined in singing the lyrics to Van Halen’s Jump to make a very odd but quite pleasant mashup. Grohl who made his start playing drums for Nirvana before transitioning to guitar went back to his roots switching spots with Hawkins allowing him to play the rock star front man. As the familiar bassline for Under Pressure started up and Hawkins began singing, The Struts Luke Spiller came out to do a spot on impression of Freddie Mercury making one of the coolest covers I have ever seen.
For Dirty Water, another new song, the four back up singers came back out to join the band with Grohl introducing the first three as the most talented singers he has ever met, and the fourth being his twelve year old daughter Violet making the tour a family affair. The show finished with the In Your Honor hit Best of You getting the crowd the chant along the chorus of “the best, the best, the best!”
During the encore break the screens lit back up showing a grainy night vision image of Grohl trying to get the crowd to cheer loud enough to come out and play more. He held up one finger and mouths the words one more song, before we are able to see Hawkins sitting behind him drinking a beer and they start to argue and after much fake cajoling they settle on three more songs. The came running out and performed Big Me from the bands 1995 self titled debut album, which had everyone singing along. The band, which played for almost three hours finished with two of their biggest hits Times Like These and Everlong capping a fantastic night of rock and roll. Grohl claimed that they were going to play all night long, and with a nearly three hour show (five hours if you include the openers) it was a damn entertaining evening. The audience was also promised to hear music from every single Foo Fighters album and true to form all eight records were present, save for Sonic Highways, which I assume they consider a soundtrack and not an album. There was nothing more you could have asked for when the band left everything on stage giving the fans what they wanted and then some.